Could a third-party candidate spoil the Ohio suburbs for Biden or Trump? – News – The Columbus Dispatch
Winning disaffected voters who may turn to a third-party candidate – or more deter them from joining them – could be a factor in winning the suburbs state battlefield in the 2020 general election six months from now.
Thousands of Ohio suburbs opened door number 3 in 2016, given the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Whether they cast protest votes or had a strong affinity for the lesser-known names on their ballot papers, those voters four years ago had a bigger impact on the suburbs’ outcome than they did in 2012.
Attracting these voters – or more deterring them from joining them – could be one factor in winning the state’s suburban battlefield in the 2020 general election exactly six months ahead of today.
This is another installment in the monthly Dispatch Battle for the ‘Burbs series that examines the suburban vote that both parties are targeting this year.
“I think we have significant support in both suburbs and rural areas,” said Harold D. Thomas, chairman of the Ohio Libertarian Party. “We like to remember that we are addressing the politically independent.”
In 2016, third party and independent candidates in Ohio’s 114 suburbs received roughly 4.4% of the vote, which is roughly three times the percentage of ballots they received in 2012, according to a shipping analysis.
That pales in comparison to Trump and Clinton, but it could be a key element in securing a battlefield in which the two big party’s candidates were separated by just over 1%.
“Breaking these former third-party voters is an important piece of the 2020 puzzle both in Ohio and elsewhere,” said Kyle Kondik, editor-in-chief of the Sabatos Crystal Ball newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Kondik pointed out that while third party voices were growing in the Ohio suburbs, they were actually smaller than in the state as a whole. And minors’ affection could wane in either area this year if voters view the election as an “up or down vote on Trump.”
Travis Irvine, who received around 3% of the vote as a libertarian gubernatorial candidate in 2018, said the country’s polarization is likely to hurt the party this year.
“I’m a little scared that … the gap between red and blue is so big, that Democrats are so scared that Trump will win again, and Republicans are scared of Biden’s victory that both sides will stand by theirs ‘Teams’ will be held in opposition to an honest discourse about the failure of the two-party system – especially during a global pandemic – that has given us poor, limited options like Trump and Biden. “
Most of the 69,441 third party and independent votes in the Ohio suburbs went to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in 2016. Johnson received 51,344 of those votes – nearly three quarters of the vote.
The Green candidate, Jill Stein, received approximately 18.3% of those votes, and the independent candidate Richard Duncan received 7.7%.
To date, no third party or independent candidates have applied to apply in Ohio. The libertarian party is likely to wait until summer to select its candidate and the Green party is expected to select a candidate in July.
US Representative Justin Amash from Michigan, who left the Republican Party in 2019 and eventually joined the Libertarian Party, is considering a run. Amash was the only non-democrat to vote for Trump’s impeachment.
“He seems very attractive. I just checked his position and it seems to be in line with the Libertarian Party’s platform,” said Thomas.
But he said he sympathizes with party members who may be suspicious of someone falling into the race at the last minute. “A lot of libertarians will be a little nervous when another Republican comes into the race without establishing his or her libertarian belief.”
Irvine said Amash may find surprising support. “Honestly, with both sides accusing the other of leading a senile old man against him on rape allegations, I think Justin will be a strong alternative for voters looking for something different in 2020.”
But Kondik said Amash will have a hard time replicating Johnson’s numbers in 2020.
In 2016, polls on the exit showed that about a fifth of voters viewed both Trump and Clinton as unfavorable, and Trump won those voters by a 47-30% lead over Clinton, while the rest supported third-party candidates, Kondik said. In 2020, he expects fewer voters to see both candidates so badly.
Third-party voters are motivated by one of two things: positive feelings about these candidates or negative feelings about the big parties, said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.
“I think there have been a lot of traditional Republican voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for (Trump) and Johnson will be a good alternative for them,” he said.
However, Beck warned against assigning third party votes to a particular candidate to influence the outcome of an election. He said that if their candidate had not been elected, it is impossible to predict whether these voters would have voted at all.
Johnson had envisioned himself as an alternative for Republicans who didn’t want to vote for Trump, but the GOP candidate still took Ohio by more than 8 points.
The competition was much closer in the suburbs. While Clinton flipped some suburbs of employees traditionally safe haven for Republicans, Trump won the overall vote in Ohio by cleaning up the working class communities that surround the urban areas of Ohio.
Third and independent voters could have swung far more suburbs in 2016 than in 2012, as the shipping analysis shows. In 2012, these voters could have made up the difference in just two of 114 suburbs. In 2016 it was 22.
This included six suburbs where Trump switched from blue to red and two suburbs in Franklin County where Clinton switched from red to blue.
Clinton beat Trump by less than 4 points at Hilliard, but third-party candidates got nearly 6% of the vote there. In Westerville she won with 4.4 points, and third party candidates received 5.3% of the vote.
Republican strategist Jai Chabria said it was impossible to know if third party voters were breaking party-political standards. While Johnson offered himself as an alternative to Trump, he could also have received votes from Clinton.
“I don’t think these third-party challengers in Ohio will really change the makeup of the presidential election,” said Chabria, who served as senior adviser to former Governor John Kasich, a Republican president, candidate in 2016.
However, more traditional Republicans live in the suburbs and Trump’s populist message might not resonate as strongly with them, he said.
Democrats learned a “painful lesson” in 2016 that just because voters didn’t like Trump didn’t mean they’d cast a ballot for a Democrat, said Ohio Democratic Party leader David Pepper.
But Pepper believes his party has a stronger argument in 2020 than it did in 2016, when Trump ran without a political track record.
“I think the feeling of a protest vote from (2016) is very different from the consequences of four more years of Trump,” he said. “The consequence of a third party candidate leading to Trump being re-elected is much clearer than it was in 2016.”
Darrel Rowland, editor of Dispatch Public Affairs, contributed to this story.